When Tony Blair made his famous pledge to concentrate on ‘Education, education, education!’, maybe we all misheard, and he really said: ‘Obfuscation, obsfucation, obsfucation!’ After all, that is what his education ministers have spent the past seven years doing with school exam results. It isn’t hard to find a teacher these days who thinks there has been a lowering of standards of GCSEs. The dramatic improvement in pass rates over the past few years have not been achieved by better teaching or brighter children, they say, but by spoon-fed examination answers, excessive reliance on coursework, making it easier to get your parents to earn your qualifications for you.
In the scheme of things, it may not greatly matter whether fox-hunting survives in England. We live in a world of woe and suffering, of pestilence, poverty and war, where millions die each year from hunger or violence, where a vast crisis in western Asia threatens to erupt catastrophically. A sense of proportion should tell us that the future of a traditional country sport enjoyed by barely a quarter of a million people in a damp little island off the north-western corner of Europe cannot be of the highest importance.
Even by the grisly standards of ritual killing, it was shocking. On 2 November in Amsterdam the Dutch iconoclast and film-maker Theo van Gogh was dragged from his bicycle in broad daylight and murdered. His killer, a bearded Dutch-born Islamic radical of Moroccan descent, shot him six times and, as he pleaded for his life, slit his throat through the spinal column with a butcher’s knife, almost decapitating him.
The rebuilt town hall of the ancient Borough of Henley still stands brave over its market place. This was Henley’s forum and seat of government, a one-stop shop of civic welfare. From here Henley’s streets were lit, paved and policed, Henley’s traders regulated, Henley’s children educated and its poor relieved, all under the aegis of Henley people.
Anywhere abroad this would still be the case. In France, Germany, Italy, Sweden and throughout America municipalities the size of Henley continue to exercise such power.
Toby Harnden accompanies American troops as they fight the insurgents with everything they’ve got Fallujah
Slumped in a corner, his face drawn and smeared with grime after five days’ fighting through the city, Specialist Lance Ohle of the US army’s Task Force 2-2 surveyed the room. ‘Can you imagine coming into your house and finding it like this?’ he mused. ‘Oh, man.’ Every window in the cinder-block house was shattered.
Peter Oborne reveals that the Tories have a secret weapon — the Voter Vault — which has identified the 900,000 swing voters the party needs to capture at the next electionAccording to all objective criteria the Conservative party leadership ought to be very low in the water. The assassination of Iain Duncan Smith almost exactly 12 months ago has brought about numberless benefits: a new mood among fundraisers; the restoration of discipline and purpose in the parliamentary party; much higher morale on the ground.